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Great nature reserves to visit in December

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Wednesday 29th November 2017 by bbowtblog

Frosty morning at Dry Sandford Pit by Jim Asher

With nearly 90 nature reserves to choose from in our three counties, which are the best to visit this month?

Here are our top reserves in Berks, Bucks and Oxon to visit during December. This is the ideal time to start looking for birds that have come to the UK for the winter. Why not make a day of it and take one of our Wild Walks to explore our reserves and the surrounding countryside.

Let us know what wildlife you see when you visit our reserves. Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery.

Click on the photos to go to the reserve webpage for more information and how to get there.


Loddon Nature Reserve

Just outside Twyford, beside the River Loddon, this flooded gravel pit dotted with islands and surrounded by scrub, is the perfect place to watch water birds. In winter the resident birds are joined by visitors including shoveler, wigeon, pochard and tufted ducks. There's a circular path around the water, making it perfect for a short stroll.

The paths can get muddy in winter so wear wellies, but there are section of boardwalk in places too.

Thatcham Reedbeds

Thatcham Reedbeds is one of the largest areas of inland reedbed in southern England. In winter flocks of tufted duck (above) and pochard gather here along with shovelers and a variety of water birds that live here all year round. You may also catch a glimpse of a starling murmuration as they gather in large flocks at dusk before roosting.

You can explore the surrounding area further with our 6-mile circular Wild Walk, which includes the reedbeds and Nature Discovery Centre, Bowdown Woods and Greenham Common. Why not pop in to the café at the Nature Discovery Centre for a warming drink after exploring the reedbeds (and browse the gift shop for a Christmas present).


Foxcote Reservoir (permit required to visit - see below)

Enjoy watching the comings and goings of migrating wildfowl in this quiet corner of Buckinghamshire. You're likely to see winter migrants including wigeon, gadwall, shoveler, tufted ducks, pochard. 

Please note that you require a permit to visit this reserve. Please contact BBOWT on 01865 775476 or info@bbowt.org.uk a few days before your planned visit to obtain a visitor permit. This is a requirement of our leasehold agreement. A map and further location details together with parking and public transport information will be sent out with the visitor permit.

There is a guided walk here on 14 January (no permit required for this event). Come along to find out more about the winter wildlife here.

Weston Turville Reservoir

Weston Turville Reservoir is a good place to observe winter wildfowl such as teal, shoveler (above) and tufted duck. You may even catch a glimpse of a bittern hiding in the reeds if you are lucky! Head to the bird hide for a peaceful spot to observe the birdlife.

The reserve is not far from Bacombe Hill, an ancient chalk grassland w ith extensive views over Aylesbury Vale, and Dancersend, a tranquil haven with a rich variety of wildlife. Both of these reserves make great places for a wintery walk.


Letcombe Valley

Letcombe Valley is a lovely mix of chalk stream, woodland and chalk grassland. As you approach the lake area look out for the little egret which is a regular winter visitor, amongst the mallards there is often a gadwall or two (pictured above) so look closely!

Long-tailed tits can be encountered almost anywhere along the brook gleening insects from the foliage or bare branches overhanging the brook. Fieldfares and redwing arrive in numbers over winter so listen out for them, they are attracted to the berries on the hedgerows and scrub along the top of the chalk bank.

Any one of a number of birds of prey can be seen at the reserve with buzzard and red kites often drifting high over the lay back field, kestrel looking for voles in the rough grassland or a sparrowhawk swooping low over the scrub hoping to surprise a small bird. 

The kingfisher has been seen regularly this year so listen out for that piping call and you might catch a glimpse of it hurtling upstream. Check out the new reserve maps and interpretation signs recently installed by the Letcombe volunteers.

The Cothill Fen reserves

Make a day of it and explore the Cothill Fen reserves near Abingdon on our Cothill Wild Walk. This 5km circular walk includes three BBOWT nature reserves: Dry Sandford Pit, Lashford Lane Fen and Parsonage Moor

Cothill Fen, the largest area of alkaline fen in central England, is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). As part of this SAC, BBOWT’s nature reserves at Dry Sandford Pit, Lashford Lane and Parsonage Moor are a nationally important collection of wildlife sites. Lashford Lane Fen is particularly good for wintering reed bunting, while Dry Sandford Pit contains fascinating fossil-rich cliffs.

Things to do

  • Find a nature reserve near you with the Wildilfe Trusts' Nature Finder app for iphone and Android
  • Look out for our top December wildlife
  • Share your photos of our reserves with us on Twitter and Facebook or upload them to our Flickr gallery
  • Oxfordshire photographer Andrew Marshall's book Photographing wildlife in the UK (published by Fotovue) includes advice on how to take great wildlife photographs. The book includes top locations for photographing wildlife and some images that were taken on BBOWT nature reserves (Greenham Common, Chimney Meadows, Foxholes and College Lake).
  • Our experts work with over 1,400 volunteers to look after over 80 nature reserves, four education centres and run hundreds of amazing events. We rely on the generosity of individuals, charitable trusts and businesses. Help us look after these precious places for your local wildlife by donating today.
  • Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with wildlife news
  • Why not take our handy duck and woodland winter wildlife spotter sheets with you when you go for a walk this winter. Click on an image below to download the full guide.


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